I am picked up by my buddy, Gary Owens. We begin to bitch immediately. It is cold and we are fat. It will be a long day.
The ride to and from the races are always my favorite part. I love the fellowship. I enjoy the excitement of the ride to the race and the conviviality that arises out of accomplishment on the way home.
Exhaustion and accomplishment taste great together…so does Gatorade and Dodge’s pizza. I would get to that soon enough.
Kiran gives pre-race instructions to the psychopaths who are running the 50k. Brian Williams is given an award for his community service, leadership, constant involvement, volunteering and dedication towards making as many people as he can experience as much pain as physically possible by convincing them to run ridiculously long stretches of treacherous terrain only to tell them when they reach their destination to, “Turn around and go back.”…or something like that.
The 50K race begins. No band, no music, just a bunch of good people who are freezing their asses off and are trying to accomplish a goal for a myriad of reasons.
Gary and I sit in the car and talk about how bad this race is fixin to suck. We also discuss how much better we would feel if we were running thirty pounds lighter only moments before I tell him about the bacon pizza with ranch dressing that I am picking up on the way home.
Kiran gives us our race instructions. I don’t listen because I never do.
I know how this goes down. I run until everything except my face hurts. I continue until there is a finish line or someone pulls me from the course.
The 25K starts. Again, no bells, no whistles, just a bunch of undisclosed reasons for running a race as difficult as this one. There is much gratitude to be given and problems needing to be solved. Nature is where you go to work things out. When you are surrounded by animals, insects, trees, and shrubs, all of which have been getting by on nothing but instinct and faith, it’s hard to believe that I need much else to get through this world.
The Swamp Stomper is a notoriously uncomfortable course. Running the infamous “Red Loop” at Shelby Forest is never easy but throw in freezing temperatures, a lot of rain, and miles of low-lying, poorly drained swamp areas…it was going to be a long day.
During these races, you have the option of making a thousand decisions or making only one. You can try to outsmart every mudhole and each individual puddle for as long as possible to keep your feet clean and dry or you can put one foot in front of the other and go ahead and embrace the inevitable. If you sign up for a race named “Swamp Stomper”, the name implies that you might get your feet wet at some point, I find it best to make like a pig and go in search of the mud. I am slow enough as it is, I need to keep my lines as straight as possible.
About 3miles in, the field has begun to spread out and I find myself with nobody within a few hundred feet– this is my happy place. I settle into a nice waddle and I go deep into thoughts of thankfulness and appreciation for my life, the sunshine and the mud. I look down at my feet as I always do, oblivous to my surrounding, and I run myself off course. Truly, you would have to be a complete baffoon to miss the turn that I missed, there was everything but neon lights and air-traffic controllers telling me to go right, but yet, I took a left anyways. I entered the Red Loop going the wrong direction. As I passed the elite runners going in the opposite direction, I was oblivious to the whole thing. Anthony Lane even told me, point blank, you are going the wrong direction. Like an idiot, I just laughed and kept going. Eventually, I figured it out and turned around. I estimate I went about one mile off course. In the scheme of things it was of little consequence, I was probably not going finish first with an 18min per mile pace anyway.
I survived the Red Loop- that place is truly a bitch- the reward was level ground. Unfortunately, the level ground was about 3 miles of standing water combines with areas of shin-high mud. It was like scene from Rambo, if Rambo had man-tits, bad hips and was wearing shoe panties.
I made it to the turn around point and tied my shoes up tight. I had my foot come out of one of my shoes as it got stuck in the mud. I figured I would rather have no circulation in my feet than to have to finish the race with only one shoe. A gentleman at the aid station was kind enough to put my trail gaiter back on my dirty feet as I was obviously struggling to bend over to do it myself. There are so many good volunteers at these races who spend an incredible amount of time playing nanny to a bunch of dirty, sweaty, grown-ups. They are invaluable.
The way back to the finish line was equally as sloppy as the way in. I was in the same amount of pain as I always am and I had enjoyed the same amount of pleasure, discomfort and time to myself as I always do.
I crossed the finish line in a little less than 5 hours, grabbed a brownie, enjoyed a handful of Cheetos and went to find Gary. On the way home we bitched, moaned, laughed and ordered pizza.
After races like these, it is a good idea to foam roll and fill yourself full of quality nutrients. I always eat crap food and lay on the couch. To each their own.
Thank you to Shelly and Kiran Hanumaiah for an outstanding race.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,